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Published: 2003/04/26
by Chris Gardner

Life Behind the 21st Century Wall – Johnny Society

Messenger Records 13
Johnny Society doesn’t want to be a pop band, and it’s a shame. There is a
pristine moment within nearly every song on Life Behind The 21st Century
Wall, but the band is trying
to so hard to hide their sensibilities, trying so hard to make
"important" music rather than good pop music that they abandon their
strengths. Even the worst of these songs (and several of them are quite
bad) have hooks peeking out from the darkness. Any number of styles are
mashed into this disc (often within the same song), and few are properly
served. Instead of focusing on the nougatty goodness at the center, the
band forces a number of ideas into each cut.
You can see the band’s brain
working so clearly you can almost hear the bad decisions as they happen. It
is enough to incense you, especially after hearing what Kenny Siegal is
of. "Love" (the 60’s TV show theme music), has a hard-rockin’ chorus that
is nearly impossible to reconcile with its mod-ish, keyed opening. "Strange
Bird" hurts almost physically, and then the simple, "Ooh Strange Bird,"
outro very nearly saves it.
Life Behind the 21st Century Wall is infuriating. Songs that start
beautifully take a WTF? turn, and songs that make you cringe from the word
go suddenly burst into beautiful bridges or choruses. "Mommy In the
Flowers" may be the best example of the band trying too damn hard. There is
a simple, beautiful song at its core, but in trying to make something more
of it, to make a statement with it, the band sours the sugary pop sweetness
at its heart.

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